Some Highland Park residents sour on neighborhood bar boom


HIGHLAND PARK — For some residents of Highland Park, too many bars have opened too quickly along Figueroa Street, according to a story reported by KPCC.

The neighborhood has 60 alcohol licenses, about a third of which were issued in the past three years alone, the news site said.

Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council member Jessica Ceballos told KPCC this boom has knocked the neighborhood’s economy out of balance:

“It’s not a sustainable economic framework for a community, and we need varied businesses that aren’t just restaurants or coffee shops, that employ people from various industries and backgrounds.”

Ceballos also told KPCC she researched having a moratorium on any new alcohol licenses. But such a moratorium could only take place citywide or countywide, not just in a neighborhood. This means residents who want to slow down liquor sales will have to go to the zoning board and fight each new alcohol license on a case-by-case basis, KPCC said.

But bar and restaurant owners told KPCC that the bars are consistently crowded, proving there is a demand. In fact, a few weeks ago, the owners of the former Highland Park Masonic Temple on Figueroa filed a request with the city to serve beer and wine as part of a new restaurant, bar and performance space in the landmark building.

New alcohol licenses have also been granted on York Boulevard, where a proposed food hall recently requested city permission to serve and sell a full line of alcoholic drinks.

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  1. Pleeeaaaaseeeeee!!!! Please bring a great Indian food, sushi, healthy Thai restaurant to Fig. We are all driving into South Pasadena and Pasadena to get this type of food. There ARE a lot of bars which I don’t really mind if tastefully done, but we could really use a greater offering of ethnic food here in HP especially on Fig.

  2. Wow. I’m shocked a representative of the neighborhood council would go out on a limb and make such a statement. Really makes me feel I should run for the council during next election.

    I agree with the previous post. I want more coffee, restaurants and bars. Another yoga studio and used vintage clothing would be good too.

    Like I kind of get it… But I think restaurants, coffee shops, bars are the shock troops of gentrification. Look at Cafe de Leche and what it did for Yorklandia.

    Build it and they will come. There’s a real chance to make Fig like Hillhurst in Los Feliz or Sunset through Silver Lake.

    Where’s the wine tasting room too? How long is Silver Lake Wines going to take to open up?

    • Jessica Ceballos

      That’s one of my many points – diversity in business is what builds a stable and sustainable marketplace, for the entire community, not just a faction of it. I think you should consider running for council! There’s an open seat. Do it!

  3. The last council actually passed a resolution to get a moratorium in place. If you are interested in participating, go to the meetings. In the last election, only 200 people voted out of 60,000 residents.

  4. From the PCC article: “I don’t ever support unless it’s an existing business that’s been there like twenty years and they need to make money,” Ceballos said.

    Uh, okay… then let’s just take it all back to halcyon days when 3/4 of Figueroa was boarded up and busted and everything that WAS open closed their doors at 8pm.

    • Isn’t a stretch to conclude that someone who opposes liquor licenses wants things boarded up or dead on Fig? I’m not sure I agree with her position, but nowhere does she say she opposes cafes, restaurants, etc… Can you point me to where she states such a position?

      Part of the problem with this whole discussion is no one actually wants to hear what the other person/side is saying and prefer to rush to one extreme of the issue for the sake of proving a point that doesn’t even seem relevant to this discussion.

      • Jessica Ceballos

        Thank you. I don’t oppose cafes and restaurants, I am arguing for a more diverse marketplace, larger range of businesses, that cater to the broad spectrum of the population in Highland Park, which includes the lower income residents. They are not ghosts, they deserve an opportunity to participate in the economy, as they have done for years. It’s ridiculous how obtuse some people can be, upsetting really. Not to mention the fact that so many cities have moratoriums in place. I’m not suggesting licenses be removed, we just don’t need any more, as of 5-10 licenses ago.

        • What evidence can you point to about not needing anymore liquor licenses? You would handicap a new restaurant by denying it a license making it less competitive? That doesn’t sound like you’re fostering an environment for job creation. And what is the logic behind denying anymore licenses in order to foster diversity. Business isn’t zero sum, because a bar opens and meets demand for that service has no effect on whether a cafe or yoga studio opens up. This is conservative, protectionist, anti job rhetoric. The nc member has some explaining to do.

  5. Sounds like there are still a few people who prefer the plethora of perpetually closed tax/immigration offices and auto shops polluting the neighborhood as opposed to food and drink which brings people and $$$ into the local economy.

  6. As a new resident to Highland Park (and SoCal) I find it interesting that development is being contested. Actually, interested this is the first I heard of it or considered it.

    There are a lot of storefronts to re-purpose, plenty to go around for a diverse economic base. I would suggest if a restaurant or coffee shop can come in, show that they can turn a profit, that would represent something of a harbinger to other investors. That probably is what happened with Gimme Gimme Records and Bearded Beagle.

    I love the idea of Indian or Sushi on Fig. There are a few Thai on Colorado. In my few months here, I have noticed a dire need for a quality Chinese restaurant.

    I hope Fig gets the continued re-development it needs.

  7. Thinly veiled prejudice by the status quo. If they could halt any further coffee, vintage clothing, yoga, avocado toast, etc. they certainly would. Bike lanes and bars are the easiest “Trojan horses” to go after. Think about the children!! Give me a frikkin break!

  8. This makes sense. The bars are new to the neighborhood and should understand how they are problematic.

  9. The provincialism of some people is astonishing. Los Angeles is a dynamic city, perpetually changing. Enjoy the changes that many see as improvements to Figueroa st.

    “I don’t ever support unless it’s an existing business that’s been there like twenty years and they need to make money,” Ceballos said.

    She clearly has an agenda and does not support our diverse community. Ceballos should resign.

    • Jessica Ceballos

      Provincialism? If 65% of a community are renters, and a large percentage make less than $20,000 a year, tell me how does it serve the population to have businesses that don’t reflect those demographics?? Any small city outside of Los Angeles that serves the betterment of the community has placed a moratorium on liquor licenses, there is no reason why the population of Highland Park doesn’t deserve the same respect. My only agenda is to listen and support the community of Highland Park. Thanks.

      • “Any small city outside of Los Angeles that serves the betterment of the community has placed a moratorium on liquor licenses”

        What? Is she just making things up or is this some kind of religious or moral crusade now? Yikes!

  10. @Eaglerocks Great word of the day! Provincialism. This is a reoccurring theme all around Los Angeles these days. Xenophobic and narrow minded residents complaining about change coming to a neighborhood that is in desperate need of change. Furthermore, this “change” has the ability and usually, reduces crime as there are more people out doing things and watching over the city so to speak. Who could be against this?? This is PROGRESSION you false “progressives”

  11. It would be nice if they went after tagging, gangs and litter with the same vengeance they do cafes, restaurants and bars.

  12. What Figueroa needs are more discount party stores, check cashing stores and boarded up stores!

  13. I’ve lived off of Fig for a few years now and embrace that there’s been change in the area; we didn’t need a dozen beauty shops and countless dingy tax offices. But I’m concerned at this point about the types of businesses moving in and the economics that they support (or don’t support). I’m feeling that the expensive building sales and high rents are now precluding diverse businesses, certainly those by ‘mom and pop’ ventures and most local residents, from participating… Such that only bars and fancy pants well funded establishments can afford to open here today, and that’s a shame.

    I think that the current speculative economics of the area are in these ways increasing the costs of living without really improving the quality of life in a meaningful way… I’m loving the pretty restored buildings, but recent changes are making the area feel more like a hologram of a neighborhood than contributing to the soul or substance of the area, the kind of thing that sounds great in a NY Times Article or Real Estate Brochure but actually feels kind of sad and empty on the ground. Gimme Gimme, The Good Girl, etc likely couldn’t afford to open today, at current rents, and that doesn’t bode well for the area.

    • Very well put @jonathan S.

    • What’s a proposed solution? The money that restores the buildings and beautifies the neighborhood also changes its character. If we could lock Highland Park in a time capsule and have it never change, what benefits would residents expect? Lifelong affordable rent? Was it objectively better when crime was higher and rent was lower?

      The real objection to gentrification should be that it displaces the poor who cannot afford to be displaced, either directly, or indirectly by eliminating the businesses that can support low-income residents. Any other argument about “neighborhood character” is, at is best, unintentional prejudice, and at its worst, malignant racism.

      • @b230ft Excellent smart rebuttal, hits all the key factors. I would go a little further and remind folks that there are plenty of decent places to live that are much less costly than Los Angeles and displaced residents should consider move there and perhaps even buy a small home. (North Valley, East LA, Pomona, Corona, Riverside, inland empire etc..

      • Excellent level-headed response!

    • Jessica Ceballos

      Thank you for sharing, and for speaking in an articulate way the concerns that many of us had. My message and interview was truncated, but did include many of these points. Please consider running for the HHPNC. 🙂

    • Jessica Ceballos

      Sorry – forgot to direct my comment to @Jonathan S

  14. @Jonathan S. I think plenty of people would say the recent developments in Highland park greatly “improving the quality of life” It’s not like things were better 10 years ago, seriously, you probably would have been robbed back then. Also, what do you want to “contributing to the soul or substance of the area”? More low-end retail shops and grease-laden food? No, so if your saying cryptically that Latinos should open more shops, than serve the community then just say it, but I don’t think they have what the “Demand” is looking for these days which is healthy foods of all ethnicites and more diverse upscale shops.

  15. It sounds like many of you are unaware or in denial about the American economic system, capitalism. Doesn’t the “free” part of free market suggest that it’s up to the economy to decide which businesses open or prosper? If a prospective business has the funds and requisite permits, let it open. If a tax shop is successful, it will stay open. If not, it will close and another business will lease the space. If too many bars or coffee shops exist, eventually only the most popular will remain; the others will go out of business. I would much prefer the economy to select viable businesses than any one individual.

    • @ Steph Yes your right. Free market is universal, neutral not some sort of monster. The same should go with rental units in this city. Abolish this phony “rent control” and let the markets decided what its worth. Guaranteed all rents will go down when there are less restrictions on them and will improve neighborhood with fresh faces, new people exploring them. Furthermore, it would help all of these entitled renters to move on and GROW UP. I feel the more laws and restrictions on the free market cause more of this dreaded Entitlement Mentality.

    • Jessica Ceballos

      @Steph “Doesn’t the “free” part of free market suggest that it’s up to the economy to decide which businesses open or prosper?” Simply put, no, because first of all, this is a debt-based economy, and as it stands the ‘market rate’ decides on which businesses can open, and to whom loans are given.

      • I’m seriously at a loss. What is this nc member talking about? Can anyone explain, jessica? Are you saying valid businesses are being redlined by banks? Where is this evidence?

  16. chasehipstersout

    Highland Park is always in the news now, you can tell the residents are fed up . The community is at its boiling point and its going to explode soon. Not going to be pretty.

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